Huntington County Jail inmates helping to spruce up roadsides

Trusties Billy Craft (left) and Cory Cove pick up trash along CR 300W on Thursday, Aug. 24, with Sgt. Tom Tallman following behind in a Huntington County Sheriff’s Department van. Craft and Cove are the latest Huntington County Jail inmates to volunteer for the trash detail.
Trusties Billy Craft (left) and Cory Cove pick up trash along CR 300W on Thursday, Aug. 24, with Sgt. Tom Tallman following behind in a Huntington County Sheriff’s Department van. Craft and Cove are the latest Huntington County Jail inmates to volunteer for the trash detail. Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Aug. 28, 2017.

If you’ve noticed an absence of litter along Huntington County roads, thank a group of inmates from the Huntington County Jail.

The inmates, non-violent offenders who have earned the trust of the jail staff, are walking rural roads, picking up trash tossed from car windows and marking the location of larger items pushed from the beds of pickup trucks.

“It’s bottles and cans,” says trusty Billy Craft as he fills a black plastic garbage bag with debris found along CR 300W on a perfect summer day.

“Mostly beer cans,” adds his fellow trusty, Cody Cove.

The pair was being supervised by Sgt. Tom Tallman, who directs the project when he has time to spare from his regular job as head of prisoner transports for the Huntington County Sheriff’s Department.

“With all the work crews I’ve done this summer, we’ve done right at 55 miles of roadway,” Tallman says.

The first day on the job for Craft and Cove was Wednesday, Aug. 24, when they covered 15 miles of road, breaking for lunch at the McDonald’s in Warren.

Sheriff Terry Stoffel says the opportunity to work on the trash pickup detail is offered to “very low risk” inmates who are in jail on charges including being a habitual traffic offender or check deception — never violent criminals or sex offenders.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had anybody tell us no,” Stoffel says.

Craft and Cove say they’re enjoying the work. Craft says he volunteered “to get out, get some fresh air;” for Cove, the draw was getting some sun and helping to clean up the town. They’ll come back “as many days as they let us,” Craft says.

They’re among the “role model inmates” Stoffel says have been offered the opportunity since the program began about four years ago.

“It’s just the ones that are in here, know they’ve done something wrong and they’re just getting through their time,” Stoffel says.

The trusties are so trustworthy, Stoffel says, that some have even turned in narcotics they’ve found along the road.

They’re usually sent out in pairs.

“Two is manageable, but four is pushing it,” Stoffel says.

Craft and Cove picked up nine bags of trash their first day out; on their second day, they were averaging about a bag a mile.

“These two are the best two I’ve ever had,” Tallman says. “They do a good job and they cover a lot.”

The trusties walk down the road, each taking one side, as Tallman follows behind in a Sheriff’s Department van. The bags they fill are taken back to the jail for disposal.

If they come across old tires or a couch, they’ll report the location to the Huntington County Highway Department, and that department will send a truck out to pick it up.

“If we encounter a road with lots of stuff on it, we’ll leave the bags at the corners and the county  and the county highway will pick it up,” Stoffel says.

Tallman says there’s no method to selecting a road to be cleaned. He tries to pick flat roads, as a hilly road would put the workers at risk of being hit by a vehicle.

“We’ve never had a problem” with inmates going out to pick up trash, Tallman says. They are warned, Stoffel says, that escape carries a mandatory eight-year sentence.

“It’s a pretty good program for the community, the county,” Tallman says.